Festas dos fronteira galinha de Africa:
Bolo ingles, molho holandes, eu boudin zul ... servico de cabidela?
... hmmm nice ... beco sem sida
"Feliz Natal"

The Blood-Stained Eden

Centuries ago great herds of plains game animals  migrated each winter from the highveld of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State and grazed on the sweet grass of the midlands. Eland, hartebeest, gnu, zebra and springbok wandered throughout the area, and remnants of these herds survive in the Giant's Castle Game Reserve in the Drakensberg Mountains.

Bushmen hunters (the San and the KhoiKhoi)  followed the game, some migrating with the herds to escape the cold of the high Central Plains, others living permanently in the sheltered valleys in the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains. Then other Bantu tribes followed in medieval times.


The end of the 18th century was almost a fairy-tale period in the story of Natal. Many legends, myths, and superstitions originate from this time. Man lived close to nature. Rivers, waterfalls, and mountains all had their spirits. Diviners and mediums flourished. There were petty feuds, livestock was stolen, but the tribes were too insular to make history. They had no knowledge of what lay beyond their territory, no trade, and little curiosity as to what lay over the horizon on a world they were certain was flat, with themselves living in the choicest part.
In 1818 disaster struck. Shaka had started to build the Zulu nation, and in the upheaval refugee groups fled in all directions. The Natal tribes were overwhelmed.
At this point the first Europeans reached Natal and found the whole area 'uninhabited' by any resident tribes. Most had fled south from the Zulus to whom these lands now belonged, and thus the British ivory traders settled on the coast and founded Durban. Later, in 1838, when Piet Retief and the Voortrekkers looked down on the midlands of Natal from their vantage point on the escarpment on the Central Plains, their hearts ached at the sight of the lovely, empty land.

But almost all the people who came to Natal, from the Bushmen to the subsequent British settlers who replaced the Voortrekkers, paid in blood for the land which captivated them at first sight.
The hills and valleys of Natal are the face of a beautiful woman, destined to watch the deaths of many of her suitors. In her smile is a compassionate understanding of the enigma of man's inhumanity to his fellow creatures in a land large and rich enough to sustain them all ...

The Illustrated Guide to Southern Africa

Valley of a Thousand Hills
Durban - Pietermaritzburg
Dominating the Valley of a Thousand Hills is Natal Table Mountain
Between Durban and Pietermaritzburg is the Valley of a Thousand Hills. The drive is along the old road and twists and turns through 27kms of wonderful scenery. The road starts at Bothas Hill then decends the banks of the Mgeni River where it passes the Nagle Dam, built on the river to supply water to Durban. It then meanders and starts to climbs the hills from the valley to Cato Ridge near Pietermaritzburg.
Dominating the valley is Natal Table Mountain known to the Zulus as emKhambathini which means 'place of giraffe acacia trees?. A path runs through the bush covered slopes to the plateau summit where there are panoramic views of the coast and 120kms directly across the midlands of Natal to the Drakensberg Mountains.

The Valley of a Thousand Hills is rich in flowering plants, including arum lilies, fire lilies, snake lilies, red-hot pokers (kniphofia), and many species of aloes.

The valley is the home of the Debe tribe. During the early years of the 19th century these people were so ruined by the Zulu raids that many of them turned cannibal and, assisted by packs of dogs, hunted man for food. The cannibals gave the Valley an evil reputation.


Route: Pietermaritzburg - Howick - Mooi River - Estcort - (Waggonsdrift) - Weenen (Battle of Blood River) - Colenso - Ladysmith - Glencoe/Talana (Anglo-Boer War) - Dundee - Rourkes Drift (Anglo-Zulu War) - Vryheid - Paulpietersburg - Utrecht - Newcastle - Volksrust - Piet Retief - Sicunusa (Swaziland border) - Manzini

Pietermaritzburg was named after two Voortrekker leaders, Piet Retief and Gert Maritz. The British took over the city in 1843 and it became their seat of administration for Natal. The first lieutenant-governor, Martin West, lived there and Fort Napier, named after Sir George Napier, was built to house the garrison.


On their journey inland, the Voortrekkers found that the easiest place to cross the Mgeni River was above a 95m waterfall, known by the tribespeople as kwaNogqaza which means 'place of the tall one'. Even so, it was a treacherous spot and many travellers and wagons were swept over the falls.

The first person to inhabit the area was a hotel keeper who set up a ferry service. He himself had lost his son to the falls during a flood and a pile of stones on the bank of the pool at the bottom of the falls marks his grave.
Near Howick are a number of other waterfalls all of which have claimed lives.
Howick was named after the home in Northumberland of Earl Grey, the British colonial secretary.

Mooi River means 'beautiful river' and was established in 1921. The river flows through a fertile valley with grassy hills and willow trees line the riverbanks. Mooi River is an agricultural centre.

Estcourt was named after Thomas Estcourt, an English parliamentarian who had promoted immigration to Natal. It was established in 1847 when a fort was built to guard the fording place over the Bushman River.
We had friends from Zambia, the Richmond family, who came to live here and we visited them a few times. They took us to see the Wagendrift Dam, 5kms away.

Weenen was established in memory of the Voortrekkers who were massacred on the banks of the Bushmans River by the Zulus at the Battle of Blood River in 1838. Weenen means 'weeping'.


Battle of Blood River

- 17th February 1838


A few days earlier, Piet Retief had been to see the King of the Zulus, Dingane to obtain rights to settlement, and his party had been massacred. The Zulu army then set off to find the Voortrekker encampment. The Voortrekkers were taken by surprise and in the ensuing battles, 582 men, women, children and slaves were killed as well as about 500 Zulu warriors.
Expecting another attack the Voortrekkers arranged their wagons into a circular laager and marshalled a small force to pursue the Zulu. At the foot of a hill called Talana which means 'place of the shelf', near Dundee, the 350 force met the 6,500 man strong Zulu army. Attacking in two separate sections the Voortrekkers killed about 650 Zulus, losing only about 10 of their own men.
The Zulus made no retaliation until the August when they suddenly appeared at the Gatslaager and killed one of the trekkers. They kept out of gunshot range and rounded up livestock belonging to the Voortrekkers. The next day they rounded up more livestock and threw spears wrapped in blazing grass at the Voortrekkers' wagons.

The Voortrekkers were despondent as their leaders had been killed in the previous skirmishes and no-one was resilient enough to take on the leadership. A man called Andries Pretorius from the Cape who had heard of the massacre of Piet Retief came to their aid with 60 men and a canon. The traders of Port Natal (Durban) also rounded up a force led by Alexander Bigger. By early December the Voortrekkers were ready to tackle the Zulu once again.
On the 15th the small force reached the river of Ncome and as their scouts had reported signs of the presence of the Zulu army in the area, Pretorius marshalled the wagons into a triangular laager.

The next day the 12,000 strong Zulu army attacked. Repeatedly they tried to take the camp by storm. 3,000 Zulu died before chief Ndlela called back his troops. And the water in the river ran red with blood. Only 4 Voortrekkers had been wounded.
The next day the Voortrekkers set off for Dingane's capital. They found the village deserted and in flames and the Zulu army was nowhere to be seen. They also found the bodies of Piet Retief and his party, whom they buried, and also the documents that Dingane had given to Retief ceding the area to the Voortrekkers.
Pretorius and his men then decided to recover their stolen cattle and set off to find Dingane. The Zulus however had left a decoy, a man named Bongoza, who offered to show them where they could find their cattle.
Bongoza led them to a valley and from the hills Pretorius and his men could see the cattle and no sign on Dingane's men. Reluctantly however, he sent in 300 Voortrekkers under the leadership of Carl Landman and 75 Natal tribesmen led by Alexander Biggar.

In the valley Bongoza vanished, and the Zulu army suddenly materialised out of the long grass in which they were hiding. Instead of fighting, the Voortrekkers retreated to the other side of the valley. Alexander Biggar and 76 of his men died in the escape and the rest managed to return to camp. Three days later the party set off back home without encountering the Zulu again. They had however managed to retrieve 5,000 head of cattle. 
Dingane's younger half-brother, Mpande who had fled Zululand after a quarrel, became an ally of the Voortrekkers and the leader of the Zulu refugees in Natal. The Voortrekkers decided to support him in a bid to displace Dingane, who had fled to the north of his kingdom and built a new capital.
And when Mpande led an attack on Dingane he was followed up by a recruitment force of 350 Voortrekkers led by Pretorius.
They clashed on 30th January on a high ridge overlooking the Mkuze River.
Dingane's men were winning at first over Mpande, but when they heard that Pretorius was on his way, the warriors fled and Dingane made his way up the summit of the Lebombo mountain range hoping to find sanctuary.
Instead, he was assassinated by the Nyawo tribe and
Mpande became king of the Zulus.

Colenso was created on the upper reaches of the Tugela River in 1855 and named after Bishop JW Colenso. Several major battles of the Anglo-Boer War were fought in the vicinity.

Ladysmith is in the valley of the Klip River which means 'stone river'. It was settled by a number of Voortrekkers in 1847 who formed an independent republic known as the Klip River Republic, with Andries Spies as the commandant. However, the British government intervened and annexed the area in 1850 when they established a town as an administrative centre and called the area the Klip River District.
Ladysmith was named after Lady Juana Smith, the Spanish wife of the governor of the Cape, Sir Harry Smith.
 During the Anglo-Boer War, Ladysmith was besieged for 120 days.
Glencoe/Talana is the site of the Anglo-Boer War which took place between the years 1899 - 1902.



The Anglo-Boer War


The Anglo-Boer War was called 'The Last of the Gentleman's Wars' as opposing generals addressed each other in the most courteous terms, British soldiers were trained more for ceremonial than war duties, their officers were more accustomed to entertaining ladies in sumptuous ballrooms; and the Boers refused to fight on Sundays as it was the day of rest.
However, the acts committed by both the British and the Boers in the Anglo-Boer War gave the world horrific legacies.
The Boers were the forerunners of  the art of trench warfare that was again used on the Western Front during the First World War.
And the British were the forerunners of  concentration camps in which they imprisoned South African women and children in grim conditions akin to those created during the Second World War.

In an effort to subdue the Boers, Lord Kitchener devised a 'scorched earth' policy, in which they destroyed farms suspected of sheltering Boer forces, and covered the country with barbed wire entanglements to impede the Boer horsemen. They also built blockhouses as guard points at strategically important points.
Concentration camps were created and the women and children whose homes they had destroyed were placed in the camps where they could no longer help the Boer forces. The camps were improperly managed and more than 26,000 women and children died, mostly from disease.
Dundee was a farm until coal was found in 1880. A geological survey carried out discovered that the coal field covered 3,000 sq. kms with the richest deposits being on the farm and neighbouring properties.
Rourkes Drift was the site of the Anglo-Zulu War which started in December 1878 when the British issued an ultimatum to the Zulus to abandon their military system and to allow missionaries to work in Zululand with a British resident living with the Zulu king, Cetshwayo. The Zulu king rejected the idea and so the British launched a three-day attack on the Zulus.


The Anglo-Zulu War




Three columns of soldiers were dispatched by the British. One crossed the lower Tugela River and marched on to Eshowe where they were besieged by the Zulu. The second invaded the north of Zululand; and the third column, the main British force, under the leadership of Lord Chelmsford invaded the centre.
The central column crossed the Buffels River at Rourkes Drift and camped on a grassy plain dominated by a hill called Isandlwana totally unaware that a 14,000 strong Zulu force was in hiding nearby.
The Zulu commander Ntshingwayo sent Cetshwayo's brother, Dabulamanzi with 3,600 men to cut the road from Rourkes Drift while the main force headed for the British camp.
The British were unprepared for the attack and their ammunition was still in screwed down boxes. They had to face the Zulu with their bayonetes only. The attack lasted only a few hours and left 858 British soldiers and 470 African allies dead, and about 1,000 Zulus also died.
As the column at Eshowe was still under siege, only the column in the north active.
The British, under the leadership of Colonel Ward, were confronted by a Zulu force that was being led by a Swazi renegade by the name of Mbilini whose stronghold was on a flat topped mountain named Hlobane.
They managed to reach the summit of the mountain and were rounding up cattle after the attack when the main Zulu army approached in the south-east. 111 British soldiers were killed in the retreat and the rest managed to reach a fortified camp on the slopes of Nkambule Hill.
The 17,000 strong Zulu army attacked the fortified camp but five hours later retreated with 2,000 of their warriors dead, while the British only lost 18 men in the attack.
On 29th March 1879 Lord Chelmsford set out from the Tugela River with a force of 5,500 men and met the Zulu force of 10,000 men, under the leadership of Dabulamanzi, at Gingindlovu. The Zulus lost about 1,000 men while the British only lost 13 soldiers.
Chelmsford then led an attack into central Zululand to the Zulu capital of Ulundi but met little resistance.
Cetshwayo pleaded for peace but Chelmsford ignored the Zulu King and in July Chelmsford's men overran Ulundi and burned it to the ground. Cetshwayo fled into the hills but was captured on 26th August and banished to Cape Town.

Cetshwayo died on 8th February 1884, and following his death there was a disagreement over the succession of rulership amongst the Zulu. Cetshwayo's son, Dinuzulu, was opposed by a fighting chief by the name of Zibebu who had been granted independence by the British in their efforts to bring peace to Zululand after the Anglo-Zulu War.
Dinuzulu's followers were the Suthu faction of the Zulu nation and were no match for Zibebu's men who also had the support of European frontiersmen, including Johan Colenbrander. A group of cattlemen from the north of Natal agreed to support Dinuzulu provided he would reward them with farms. Dinuzulu agreed and about 800 mercenaries joined the force. They defeated Zibebu at the Battle of Ghost Mountain.

When it came to rewarding the European mercenaries with farms however, Dinuzulu realised that there would not be enough land left for the Zulus themselves. An argument followed but eventually the mercenaries agreed to accept smaller farms for those who had joined later, and a second survey of the area was drawn up.
In August 1884 the mercenaries formed the New Republic with its capital named Vryheid which means 'liberty'.
The Zulus still did not have enough land and in 1887, when German agents arrived with a view to developing a port at Lake St. Lucia, the British stepped in and declared the area around the lake as a British protectorate.
In the same year the New Republic joined Paul Kruger's
South African Republic.

Paulpietersburg was named after both President Paul Kruger, and Pieter Joubert. The town was originally founded around a hot spring which surfaces on the southside of a 1,536m high mountain known as Dumbe. Dumbe is a fruit which grows on its slopes.
Utrecht originated when a group of cattlemen acquired grazing rights in 1854 from the then Zulu king, Mpande. They then formed an independent Republic and claimed the land their own. Utrecht, named after the ancient city in Holland, was the capital of the little Republic which was only 32kms by 64kms. The Republic was absorbed into the Transvaal in 1858 after the Anglo-Boer War.

Newcastle was founded in 1864 as an administrative centre. It was named after the British colonial secretary, the Duke of Newcastle.
 During the Anglo-Transvaal War in 1881 and the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902 the town was used as a depot by the British army, and the battlefields of Majuba, Laing's Neck, and Ingogo are near the town.
I had a friend Jane (Golesworthy) who lived in Newcastle and went to see her in 1992. While I was there I went to the Bank for some money and met up with a girl, Linda, who used to be headgirl at St. Marks High School. It amused me that she, who had been an outstanding pupil getting good grades, ended up as a bank teller.

Volksrust (Transvaal) is linked to Natal by the Convention Bridge which has an amusing piece of history as the bridge was used as 'neutral ground' when President Paul Kruger and Sir Henry Loch, the British High Commissioner, signed the Third Swaziland Convention in 1894 that placed Swaziland under the administration of the Transvaal.

It is amusing in that as neither man wanted to sign the agreement on foreign soil, so a railway coach was pushed into the middle of the bridge and the two men sat at each end of the coach so that they would be in their 'own' territory!
Volksrust was founded in 1888 and means 'people's rest'. During the Anglo-Boer War it was used as a marshalling yard for the Transvaal army when the British were driven off Majuba, a hill on the homestead called Mount Pleasant.

At the time, the only thing about these Wars that interested me was the fact that we were going to visit the battle sites and I had visions of finding bullets, spears and perhaps the odd skeleton or bones *laugh*. When we got there however, it was a great disappointment because we found nothing, and would never find anything unless we came with a lawn mower or other such implement and cut the 2-3ft high grass! No-one would have known any battle took place there at all!

The opening phrase of my page on Natal is actually a message
To the Portuguese sailors who first rounded the Natal coast in 1498

Frontier of Africa Christmas Feast

English cake, Hollandaise Sauce, and Black Pudding ... Served with blood
 ... and roughly translated means:
Aren't you glad you didn't land here
As you would have met with a blood-bath ...
With the British, the Dutch, and the Zulu
Merry Christmas

Natal meaning Christmas, and the name that they gave to the area.
It is written in Portuguese as who knows how
Events would have then shaped the country ...
But you can be assured that the official language would now be
And if the Portuguese had not opted instead for the
East African coast -
Maybe everyone would be speaking



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